While the U.S. Congress has averted mandatory budget sequestration until March, including anticipated defense spending cuts, Pentagon watchers have been predicting a new austerity one way or the other for months.
By the end of this month the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) is expected to finish letting three to five contracts valued at $3 to $4 million aimed at kick-starting the next generation of military helicopter, the Joint Multi-Role(JMR), that would be used by all branches of the armed forces.
Since the dramatic cancellation of the stealthy Comanche attack helicopter in 2004, U.S. Army aviation has used the released funds to embark on a major rejuvenation by modernizing and augmenting the existing AH-64, UH-60 and CH-47 fleets, as well as procuring two new types.
While the S-76 and S-92 will remain Sikorsky’s bread and butter for some time to come, the company is also launching a new age of vertical lift technology, which it is calling the X2.
Sikorsky announced the X2 program at Heli-Expo 2006, claiming its clean-sheet airframe design and counter-rotating blades would allow the helicopter to reach speeds of 250 knots or more while retaining true helicopter heavy-lift capability.